1990 Ford F-150

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1,935
Location
British Columbia, Canada
A local truck is being offered for sale by auction. It's a 1990 Ford F-150 XL Supercab 4X2; has a 351W engine and a 4 speed E40D automatic transmission. It's low mileage and appears to be in very good condition. I don't need or particularly want a 4X4. I would only drive it when the roads are clear of ice and snow and the furthest it would ever get off road would be a camp site pull-through. I have been thinking of getting a small trailer - 16' or thereabouts. I know Ford has had problems with some of their engines (spark plugs that either self eject or won't come out at all). Is this one of those problem engines? Is this a generally reliable power train? Would this have any problems pulling a small trailer? And though mileage isn't a primary consideration, what sort of mileage could I expect?
 

blupupher

Site Donor 2021
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6,849
Location
Katy, Republic of Texas
Spark plug issues are with the modular motors used in trucks starting in 1997. 2v can have an issue with the plug blowing out (not real common), the 3v (starting in '04 on the 5.4) has issues getting the plug out. The 351W is neither of these engines. Should be able to handle the trailer just fine, depending on what the trailer weighs. No idea on gas mileage.
 
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4,692
Location
Southeast
The 351W is long before the spark plug issue came about. They are solid motors which also saw and still see marine use. That said, You are looking at a 30 year old truck, and that negates a lot of where you are going with your questions. If you want it to be an occassional-use vehicle, it might be ok. If you want it to be family-reliable for camping trips and the like, you are going to be putting possibly significant time and money into it. These have a lot of steel in them, but rubber bits age, and there's a lot of hoses, IIRC in 1990s fords, for example. At this point, 75% of its future depends on how it's been maintained, not just how it looks on the outside. Good Luck! -m
 
Messages
7,485
Location
S California
As I understand it only the newer V8's have those spark plug problems. This truck is old school and should be very reliable. It's a simple push rod engine. You'll be trading a bit of fuel mileage for simple and reliable, a trade you'll have to decide for yourself. You'll have to suffer the shame of no infotainment system, no Bluetooth, no adaptive cruise control, no radar anything and worst of all, easy access under the hood and plenty of independent shops that can service your vehicle. If you want a vehicle to keep for a long time a pickup or a pickup based SUV is a good choice. I drive a 4-door pickup with a fixed camper shell. It's called a 2003 4Runner. I plan to keep it forever. Parts and service should never be a problem. Enough people ditch them or wreck them to keep me in parts until I can't drive anymore.
 
Messages
968
Location
Battle Creek, MI
My father had an '87 F-150 and I drove it quite a bit growing up and as a teen. Thing got into three accidents over the years and still worked just fine. Only major problem my dad had with it was it would intermittently die on the side of the road and restart after it cooled off for a while. Mechanic couldn't find anything and eventually he finally got it to die at his shop. Forgot what it was exactly but some electronic doo hickey that failed when hot. Other than that we ran it over 230k miles before we sold it to an employee and he sold it to someone else and still it on the road for years after we quit driving it. It had the 302 and with two fuel tanks I remember we could get 500 miles out of it on highway trips (barely).
 
Messages
22,087
Location
Apple Valley, California
Good trucks. That 351w goes back into the 60's. The heater is a 30 minute job vs 8 hrs for one in a newer truck. They also have ice cold ac when its working right and not hacked by some fool with a can of r134a.
 
Messages
17
Location
Georgia
Meep is right about the rubber bits, but rust can be an issue as well. I had an 88 F150 4x4 for 7 years. Basically same truck minus 4WD. Very reliable mechanically. On the Electric side, windshield wiper switch, dimmer switch, and light switch went out...same problems I had on a 71 and two 78 Fords. In addition I couldn't get a power window motor to last even 2 years. Never left me on the side of the road but the power window issue got old.
 

ecotourist

Thread starter
Messages
1,935
Location
British Columbia, Canada
Lots of helpful comments. What I've picked up: Power train potentially reliable. Should have no problem pulling a small trailer. Not bad mileage. Will have to watch out for rust (it appears to be pretty much rust free and has original paint). Electrical bits could be a problem (has manual windows which are a plus.) Rubber bits may have deteriorated due to age. I don't think it has air conditioning. Not a deal breaker though as it doesn't get that hot around here (southern and coastal Vancouver Island - almost as far south as Seattle). I wouldn't buy a new car without AC but it's not such an issue for an older truck.
 
Messages
7,313
Location
California
The 351 is a solid motor and easy to work on - it's not as frugal as the newest F150s, nor will it have all the infotainment and safety features. Those old Fords were pretty tough trucks. If you need Bluetooth, slide in a $100ish Pioneer or Alpine deck into the dash. smile
 
Messages
499
Location
VA
Hey, another low mileage OBS ford! Mine has been awesome. Watch for rust, especially on the radiator support. I never want to get rid of my truck.
 
Messages
10,710
Location
Cincinnati, OH, USA
On the E4OD, I would definitely install a deep sump transmission pan, synthetic ATF, an auxiliary cooler, and a transmission temperature gauge. The early E4ODs were known for insufficient ATF flow, with resulting burnt fluid, I had (company vehicles) a '94 E-250 heavily loaded cargo van & a '93 E-350 cutaway box truck with liftgate (14' box, was almost ALWAYS overloaded)-both had transmission troubles & burnt Mercon regularly, both had 351 modified engines (which the 351 available in '90)-the engines were pretty trouble free, both of mine made 200K without serious problems, but the transmissions made up for it!
 
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Messages
1,869
Location
Texas
You need to be able to do some of your own maintenance or it will be costly. These were good trucks but it is almost as old as mine and stuff happens
 

ecotourist

Thread starter
Messages
1,935
Location
British Columbia, Canada
Originally Posted By: bullwinkle
On the E4OD, I would definitely install a deep sump transmission pan, synthetic ATF, an auxiliary cooler, and a transmission temperature gauge. The early E4ODs were known for insufficient ATF flow, with resulting burnt fluid ... the engines were pretty trouble free ... but the transmissions made up for it!
Good advise. Thanks.
 

ecotourist

Thread starter
Messages
1,935
Location
British Columbia, Canada
Originally Posted By: Dallas69
You need to be able to do some of your own maintenance or it will be costly. These were good trucks but it is almost as old as mine and stuff happens
I used to do a lot of my own maintenance in the days when I couldn't afford a mechanic (water pumps, spark plugs, ignition timing, valve clearances, starters, brakes, shocks, ball joints, tie rod ends, exhaust systems, that sort of thing - up to a valve job on a 289 V8). My recent vehicles have been too complicated to do much on, aside from fluid and filter changes. And access these days is a real problem. But I still have the tools - and maybe the skills. A more accessible and simpler vehicle would be a relief. I've never done any seal replacements but I could learn.
 
Messages
22,087
Location
Apple Valley, California
My 87 has been very reliable. It's most annoying problem is the charging system. But that's due to junk rebuilt alternators and Chinese made voltage regulators as the OE one is no longer available from ford. The electric windows are stupid simple compared the GM electric windows. There is a rubber gizmo in there that absorbs shock and it wears out. A new one is $20 from auto zone. The headlight switch is a common failure. Takes 10 minutes to replace it. Some guys add a relay and fix it for good.
 
Messages
10,160
Location
Birmingham, AL
Condition is everything on a truck that age. But overall, I think '85-'96/'97 EFI Ford trucks are great. Easy to work on, great parts availability with many choices, and just really nice trucks to drive. They don't feel as big as newer trucks to me when driving them, even if actual size is pretty close. You will have to tinker with it and probably catch up on care/maintenance, but if the base truck is stock and in okay shape, that will be easy. It's hacked up old trucks that are a nightmare. The more stock, the better. Even if stuff is worn out and needs replacing, you know what needs to be replaced, and don't have to decipher/undo someone's hillbilly engineering. You might not be able to get much from the dealer, but parts availability is fantastic for these trucks from the aftermarket and NOS sources. NPD and LMC are your friends if you are a stickler for details and want it to be a really nice truck.
 
Messages
36,272
Location
ME
Get the list of rear end axle ratio codes before you go look. It sounds like it was set up for towing but a decent ratio would be icing on the cake. The ratios are alpha-numerics on the door jamb VIN sticker and totally nonsensical if you don't have the decoder ring. wink I have a 95 4x2 300-6 with a stick and 2.73 gears set up for gas mileage but it gets 16. It's a little off from new, probably, as old trucks tend to be. If yours comes close it's in pretty good tune.
 
Messages
2,440
Location
snowblind in TX
Ditto on above about taking care of the E4OD. That is the only powertrain component that gave us higher failure rates vs other transmissions. Some of them had failures of the trans cooler bypass (like a thermostat to warm up the trans fluid quicker). Not sure all E4ODs were equipped with that bypass. 351W is a reliable engine. EVP sensors go flakey, EGR valve, and sometimes the ports clog and set a code (something the early modulars share as well with clogged ports and flakey DPFEs). Overall the powertrain is one of FoMoCos more reliable. The rest of the truck is fairly easy to work on.
 
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